Sunday, June 20, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #24 "Create in Me a Clean Heart"

2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51

David was the greatest king that Israel ever had, for several reasons:  "1) he united the tribes into one nation, 2) he secured undisputed possession of the country, and 3) the whole government rested upon a religious basis, and the will of God was the law of Israel" (Bible Dictionary, p. 654).  The experiences he had in his earlier life prepared him well to be a great king.  "As shepherd he acquired the habit of deep reflections; as courtier he was trained in self-control and chivalrous generosity; as outlaw he acquired knowledge of men and power of government; while each successive phase of experience developed that conscious dependence upon God which was the secret of his strength throughout his life" (ibid., p. 653).

Despite all of the valor, testimony, loyalty, intelligence, kindness, and generosity of spirit he demonstrated throughout his life, he abandoned all of these qualities in an instant when he saw Bathsheba.  What led to this cataclysmic error? 

David, who could look the mighty Goliath in the eye, claim victory in the name of the Lord, and slay him with a dramatically inferior weapon, allowed himself to become blind to the dangers of the little things.

Neglecting duty
"And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab [the general of his army], and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and beseiged Rabbah.  But David tarried still at Jerusalem" (2 Sam. 11:1).  At the time when he, the king, should have gone forth to battle, David sent.  He neglected his duty, left it to the care of others.  He tarried still at Jerusalem, the comfortable place, the safe place, the wrong place for a king at time of battle.

"And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon" (2 Sam. 11:2).  The sun was setting, it was fairly dark, yet David took the effort to look closer at the bathing figure.  He lingered.

"And David sent and enquired after the woman" (2 Sam. 11:3).  David started thinking about what he had seen.  Of course, polygamy was practiced then, so he might have sought her as another wife.  But he wasn't just interested in dating, in finding out her virtues, in getting to know her personality.  It was only her body that he had seen, and it was only her body that he therefore could have had an interest in.  On top of that, when he was told she was already the wife of Uriah, he should have closed the book. David, however, allowed himself to continue to want.

Acting upon lusts
"And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her...and she returned unto her house" (2 Sam. 11:4).  David had no possibility of being honorably married to Bathsheba, and perhaps he didn't care to be.  He used her to satisfy his lusts in a "one-night stand," and then returned her to her home.  Why is Bathsheba never condemned by the Bible authors?  David was the king.  She was helpless to do anything but what he commanded, likely at peril of her life.

Attempting to cover sin
"And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child" (1 Sam. 11:5).  The little parenthetical statement in the previous verse, "for she was purified from her uncleanness," tells us that the bathing David had watched was the monthly ritual to cleanse herself after menses.  Therefore, it also tells us that, with Uriah off to war, the time of the conception of the child was absolutely clear, and there was only one possibility for paternal claim: David.

David tried all kinds of tactics to get Uriah to come in to be with his wife and give the appearance of being the child's father, but Uriah was such a faithful servant, always in the right place at the right time, he would not relent and neglect his duty as did David.  Ironically, in desperation, David did to Uriah exactly what his father-in-law Saul had tried to do to him. Saul had promised David his daughter to wife if David would kill 100 Philistines, expecting that the Philistines would kill David (1 Sam. 18:17-21; 25-27).  David, then, took Uriah's life by arranging for his death in battle.  Other soldiers were killed with Uriah in the wreckless maneuver (2 Sam. 11:17).  After the death of Uriah, he married Bathsheba, which act would have appeared to the Israelites to have been noble on David's part: the benevolent king taking his noble servant's widow under his sheltering care, a great cover-up.


A new family bought a house on our street several years ago.  It was a 25-year-old home with pretty rooms, a lovely open kitchen, and nice landscaping.  It had been freshly painted inside, and everything looked like new.  Our new friends were pleased with their home, but after several months, they noticed mildew growing on a bathroom wall in the basement.  The problem got worse as time went on, and the wall fairly oozed of mold.  Finally, they called a repairman who cut a hole in the wall and found a broken pipe, wrapped in layers of damp, mildewed rags, and mold spreading all around it!  Before selling the home, the previous owner had hastily wrapped up the pipe, covered the wall with new sheetrock, and given it a fresh coat of paint, rather than pay a plumber!  In the end, the cost of repairing the pipe was minimal compared to the cost of removing the mold and mildew, rebuilding the wall, and repainting.

Who would do something this crazy?  But, of course, this is just what David did after his affair with Bathsheba, covering up adultery with lies, trickery, and finally premeditated murder.  Covering one problem led to another greater problem, and evil began to ooze from the festering wound of the original sin.

The prophet Nathan let David know, through a parable, that the Lord saw his crimes and condemned them, and that they had caused others to sin (2 Sam. 12:1-14). To his credit, David admitted his sin baldly, but there is no mention of repentance at that time. The JST footnote for 2 Samuel 12:13 changes Nathan's reply to say that David was not forgiven. Nathan prophesied grave consequences to David: first, that evil would arise in a person in his own family (2 Sam. 12:11) who would commit adultery with David's wives, not in secret, but in plain sight of all of Israel. This was fulfilled by his son Absalom (2 Sam. 16:22). The second consequence was that the child of the illegitimate union would die (2 Sam. 12:14), which it did, a sign in their culture of God's condemnation of its parents.

Elder Richard G. Scott said to those who cover up their sins, "Do not take comfort in the fact that your transgressions are not known by others...Excusing transgression with a cover-up may appear to fix the problem, but it does not.  The tempter is intent on making public your most embarrassing acts at the most harmful time.  Lies weave a pattern that is ever more confining and becomes a trap that Satan will spring to your detriment"  (April 1995 General Conference).

"David committed a dreadful crime [to cover up his sin of adultery], and all his life afterwards sought for forgiveness.  Some of the Psalms portray the anguish of his soul; yet David is still paying for his sin.  He did not receive the resurrection at the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Peter declared that his body was still in the tomb, and the Prophet Joseph Smith has said, 'David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.' Again we ask: Who wishes to spend a term in hell with the devil before being cleansed from sin?" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:74)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, "Murderers are forgiven eventually but only in the sense that all sins are forgiven except the sin against the Holy Ghost; they are not forgiven in the sense that celestial salvation is made available to them (Matt. 12:31-34).  After they have paid the full penalty for their crime, they shall go on to a telestial inheritance" (Rev. 22:15).  (Mormon Doctrine, p. 520)

Had David repented of the first sin, the consequences would not have been nearly as severe, and he could have eventually been restored to a state of happiness. "Repentance always means that there is greater happiness ahead" (Neil L. Anderson, October 2009 General Conference). Instead, sorrow fell upon sorrow as David attempted to cover up his sin with yet greater sins, until the Lord stated "he hath fallen from his exaltation" and lost the privilege to have his wives and family in the next life (D&C 132:39).


For more discussion on David see "Points to Ponder" in the chapter on "The Fall of King David" in the Old Testament Institute Manual.

1 comment:

sbelnap said...

I love reading your notes on each lesson. It really offers some new insight. My only suggestion is to change a part about Bathsheba. She was not on the roof, it doesn’t say in the scriptures that she was, only that David was. Her “washing” was part of Jewish law and showing devotion to God by doing so. She wouldnt be doing that on the roof.